gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Women's History Month - guest post by Delia Sherman

I read my first Lucy Sussex short story in 1988. It was “My Lady Tongue,” and I picked it up because I’m fond of Shakespeare and particularly fond of Much Ado About Nothing. Once I got over the fact that the connection between Shakespeare and the story was entirely a matter of theme (which didn’t take long), I was hooked. Like many of Lucy’s stories, “My Lady Tongue” is about gender and pushing boundaries and breaking rules. It is about a character who is at once a rebel and a citizen, a problem child and a problem-solving adult. It is also written in just exactly the right language needed for the story and the character, beautiful but not self-conscious, atmospheric, but never at the expense of movement or action.

In short, the author of “My Lady Tongue” was clearly just exactly the kind of writer I’d follow anywhere, whatever her subject.

After that, I read every Lucy Sussex story I could find. Since she’s an Antipodean writer (I say that because, although she’s actually a New Zealander, she has lived most of her adult life in Australia, and often writes about Australian history), they were not thick on the ground in the US. Then, in 1996, she submitted “Merlusine” to Ellen Kushner and me for our “music and magic” anthology, The Horns of Elfland.

We were blown away. We know from Louisiana and Cajun music—and she’d got it all exactly right—the history, the speech patterns, how the music makes you feel and how it fits into the culture. Not only that, she’d seamlessly knitted in the French legend of the serpent-bride Melusine as well as dealing with such vexed political themes as racial identity and class in the American South.

And it was a damn fine story, too.

We bought it. Of course we bought it. And when we met Lucy at World Fantasy in Monterey (I think) in 1998, we loved her, too. As a researcher and a historian, she knows an incredible amount about the hidden byways of Australian and American history. As a journalist, she knows how to ask just the right questions. And her sense of humor is as dry as the Outback.

Last year, in preparation for an introduction to a new collection of Lucy’s stories, called Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies, (Ticonderoga Press—look for it) I read very nearly all her stories, one after another, and was blown away all over again. I love the way Lucy layers history and character and narrative like colors in an oil painting, each contributing its bit to the depth and subtlety of the finished story. I love her free and easy way with genre. Since I’m a bit of an historian myself, I love the way she writes about history, and how it bleeds into and influences the present. I love her characters, her strong women and her questing men, her living volcanoes and glaciers and dolls and books. And I admire her clarity—of thought, of expression, of understanding. Her stories are frightening, sad, acerbic, and frequently very, very funny. I just wish that they were better known in the States.

Delia Sherman was born in Japan and raised in New York City. Most summers, she
visited her mother’s relatives in Texas and Louisiana and her father’s relatives in
South Carolina. After earning a PhD in Renaissance Studies, she taught expository
writing at Boston University while she learned to write fiction herself. Her work
has appeared most recently in the YA anthologies The Beastly Bride, Steampunk! and
Teeth. Her “New York Between” novels for younger readers are Changeling and The
Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. Her most recent novel is the Norton-nominated
historical time-travel novel The Freedom Maze. Delia still teaches writing
workshops, most recently at the Hollins University Masters Degree Program in
Children’s Literature. She lives in New York City, and travels at the drop of a

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